The Other Bubbly

Just as artisan vintners strive to create a unique and individual product, microbreweries are following the path to craft quality brews that can entice wine aficionados. Over the years I’ve enjoyed a cold Dos Equis, Anchor Steam, Hafweissen or occasional Guinness, but rarely engaged all my senses and analytic constructs to delve into a beer experience. Recently, enlightenment came upon attending a dinner, pairing the beers of Telegraph Brewing Company with foods of Zaffiro Restaurant as part of its Brewmaster Dinner Series.

Aptly led by Brewmaster Brian Thompson, we viewed, swirled, smelled, felt, and tasted a series of flavorful brews. A former stock analyst who found a higher calling, we learned from Thompson of the critical decisions of balance in wheat, malt, hops, and choices of yeasts, fermentation skills, barrels and bottling to yield extraordinary diverse beers. With generous pours, this alone led to lively analysis and discussion; however, the true breadth of the experience was heightened with the creative pairings concocted by Amy McNellis, Chef at Zaffiro. A Culinary Institute of America grad and former instructor for Pasadena’s Le Cordon Bleu, Amy was right on the mark achieving that wonderful interplay and mutual enhancement of brew and food.

Golden Wheat Ale, a pale unfiltered summer ale with citrus overtones, played well with Beer Steamed Mussels, which displayed a sweetness happily occupying the beer bread rolls sopping up the residual broth. Next came Spiced Seared Duck Breast accompanied by barley risotto and rich greens supported by California Ale, a browner, rich, full-bodied brew, infusing a subtle fruit and exotic lingering cardamom-like spice with effervescence that balanced any fattiness of the game. Strong Ale, 7.5% alcohol, provided the body to underpin Lamb Kebabs with pomegranate jus and mint-pistachio cous cous.

Are there dessert beers? Well, a Porter Chocolate Cake smothered with espresso-fudge sauce set a high bar but Stock Porter met the challenge. A combination of dark barrel-aged ale blended with freshly brewed ale, rich, mahogany brown, it stood right up to the intense espresso fudge nicely.

With a nod to well-established European techniques, yet reflecting local tastes and ingredients when possible, the brews are handcrafted in copper brewery at the Telegraph Brewery’s North Salsipuedes location.

The balance and grounding, of course, came from the food. Chef Amy brings her culinary talents with a philosophy of healthy, locally grown, flavorful and innovative creations for Zaffiro, the popular restaurant located at Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace.

Telegraph Brewing Company, 416 North Salsipuedes Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, Tel: 805-963-5018, http://www.telegraphbrewing.com Call for tasting room hours

Zaffiro Restaurant, 6920 Marketplace Drive, Goleta, CA 93117. Tel: 805.968.6201, Check their calendars for upcoming tastings and events.

Sip Tip: What has 110 types of fermented fruit juice and the expertise of chef and spirits consultants to pair with authentic international cuisine? If you guessed tequila you may not have known about the second part. At El Cazador del Mar in Santa Barbara, several times a month, you can enjoy a six-course Mexican meal paired with high-end tequilas, a different one for each course, some in mixed drinks, and the very best of the best in shooters (to be sipped and savored, not shot).

Coming soon on June 14th is “Food & Tequila with Southern Wine and Spirits.” For menu, reservations, and future dates call 805 965-5606. (If you drop in for lunch or dinner, say “Judy sent me,” and you’ll be offered generous tastes of excellent sipping tequilas that go down so smoothly you may never drink Cuervo Gold again!